Backyard Monsters Brings Traditional Strategy Elements to Facebook

Backyard MonstersIf you’ve spent any significant amount of time on Facebook in recent weeks, you’ve probably seen the advertisements for some game called Backyard Monsters. Truth be told, our guess was that the Casual Collective title would be another husbandry, where users grow and care for monsters. Very wrong. Backyard Monsters is, surprisingly, a strategy game, and even more surprisingly, one that doesn’t feel like another Civilization or Evony clone.

While Backyard Monsters does borrow concepts from the above-named games, it also succeeds in not only sating early player progression desires, but also mixing in elements from real-time strategy games. RTS titles have never been prominent on Facebook, but the mechanics work fairly well in Monsters and even play an almost invisible role in the game’s virtual currency scheme. Moreover, despite some rather drab user interface issues, Backyard Monsters has continued to grow steadily, now reaching approximately 213,000 monthly active users. Here’s a closer look at the game’s details:

Users start off with a plot of land — their “backyard” — and begin constructing required buildings to build up a monster army. As with any RTS, the Town Hall acts as the central hub to all other technology trees, being required to build anything else.

Wild MonstersThis is where the first notable difference between Backyard Monsters and Evony comes into play. The latter title, and its various clones, always have a finite number of plots of land in which to construct buildings. Technically, that still exists here, but everything is on an invisible grid, and users can place buildings anywhere they will fit. This includes resource gatherers, which in other games are typically limited to the exterior parts of your town or kingdom.

There are a large number of resources to be gathered: Twigs, Pebbles, Putty, Goo, and Shiny. The first four can be gathered passively through various structures, but each structure can only hold so many units until new production must be stored, by the player, in the town hall or a storage silo. Should the user not come back to the game to store resources, gathering will cease.

The Shiny resource, on the other hand, cannot be gathered normally and is the game’s virtual currency (though it can sometimes be earned through a basic quest system). By constructing a general store, users can purchase bonuses with Shiny, including faster resource gathering for a limited time, protection against would-be attackers, extra resources, and even extra workers.

General StoreWorkers are yet another RTS element brewed into Backyard Monsters, as in order to construct anything, a worker must be available. Until then, they mill about the map. Players only start with one, and in a wise move by Casual Collective, these little guys cost Shiny to hire, with the cost increasing each time you get another one.

It is also worth mentioning that of all the purchases the player can make with the virtual currency, none feels terribly expensive. Resources might cost five Shiny, while speeding up construction on something is six or seven. There is even protection for limited amounts of time (700 Shiny for about a month; less for less time) that can prevent any other players attacking you.

Unfortunately, the app has a slow burn, requiring many buildings that cost a good chunk of change before you can really build any monsters of your own, so you won‘t be doing attacking of your own right away. Thankfully, you are capable of building defensive towers and even booby traps to protect you from almost the get go.

Under SiegeEarly on, no player can attack you for about two weeks (or until you pick a fight), but random creatures can. Any defenses constructed — walls, defensive towers, and even booby traps — will automatically attack the various nasties, but a good amount of damage can still be taken by your base. Curiously, nothing requires resources to repair, only time. However, the greater the damage, the longer it takes to fix, and the lower the health of a building the lower its productivity.

Eventually, players will earn enough resources to build monsters for their army, a process similar to constructing buildings. Bigger monsters are more expensive, take longer to research than make, have various prerequisites, and fill up slots in certain buildings that house them. All the same, once players do have an army, and a building called a “Map Room,” they can venture forth and attack other players for their own resources. The game doesn’t focus on using friends as direct allies, but they can help you upgrade your buildings faster, and eventually you will be able to visit their backyards and bank their resources for a cut. Additionally, there is an ability to form truces with other players further along in the game.

MonstersBackyard Monsters actually becomes quite addicting, with a good ingress for hooking new players. The only real downside comes in the form of visuals, namely, the user interface. The buildings and most of the monsters look pretty cool (though the animations are almost non-existent), but the UI is unbearably dull. With simplistic shapes, a grid-like layout, and menus and buttons that look like Excel or a 90s website, they feel completely disconnected from the game itself. The game is still fun, so many will probably look past it, but it certainly isn’t doing the potential growth any favors.

Overall, Backyard Monsters is a surprisingly fun strategy game complete with Civ- and RTS-style mechanics. It’s a slightly more unusual choice as a Facebook game, but for what it is, it works. Moreover, its virtual currency is well planned out, making player spending feel insignificant and thus encouraging the impulse-buy psychology that made virtual goods and currency what they are today. The user interface is rather poor by comparison to everything else, but with a few touch ups here and there, an already good game could potentially become great.

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17 Responses to “Backyard Monsters Brings Traditional Strategy Elements to Facebook”

  1. steve-o says:

    Awesome game!

  2. Rich Pedley says:

    Nice review! The game combines many elements of different games into one package. I’m sure it will appeal to users of Facebook in a big way.

    Another excellent game from the Casual Collective team.

  3. Jack, Has Standards says:

    “This is where the first notable difference between Backyard Monsters and Evony comes into play.” Huh? These two games are nothing alike, other than they both have buildings you endlessly level up.

    Evony is much more complex and has an actual game map that you play on. BM has a fake map, and in general, much less complexity.

    “surprisingly fun strategy game” – I find it hard to classify this as a strategy game. Again, you pretty much just endless level up your buildings. Battle is mostly unsatisfying (unless you’ve maxed your pens).

    Only when I was attacked by a more advanced player did I ever feel like I was in a game with another human. One day of that.

    I’d score this a C, overall. Takes little time to play.

    It is to be commended for not constantly asking you to have your friends join it.

  4. leif erickson says:

    ummm… hey I cant finish the tutorial because i have not given shinys…. help me pls……
    i wanna play the game……
    how can i finish the tutorial if i cant buy another worker????

  5. Austin says:

    Jack, What is evony than an amazing game that is the same thing as BM just with better graphics? haha if you dont like BM you dont like evony.

  6. Josh Steele says:

    whats that big weird looking thing is it the town hall?

  7. Ravenwood Fair Crosses 10 Million Players on This Week’s List of Fastest-Growing Facebook Games by MAU says:

    [...] Monsters is the Casual Collective strategy game that we reviewed last July. The game hasn’t really changed much since then; it’s still the same oddly compelling, [...]

  8. Raising Knights and Slaying Trolls With Social Empires on Facebook says:

    [...] in respect to other social games such as Backyard Monsters — as well as popular traditional PC games like the Age of Empires series – the [...]

  9. Interview: Will Harbin on the Evolution of Backyard Monsters says:

    [...] is a solid hit for Casual Collective. A quirky, compelling tower defense strategy game that we reviewed back in July 2010 not long after launch, it has continued to grow slowly but steadily and has attained above normal [...]

  10. Casual Collective Re-brands As Kixeye, Ramps Up Developing Core Games For Facebook says:

    [...] enough that they will also attract different players. There are certainly more casual aspects to Backyard Monsters but Facebook is a wide open market for core gamers, and games will go where the gamers [...]

  11. Casual Collective Re-brands As Kixeye, Ramps Up Developing Core Games For Facebook | pcgamestore.co.za says:

    [...] enough that they will also attract different players. There are certainly more casual aspects to Backyard Monsters but Facebook is a wide open market for core gamers, and games will go where the gamers [...]

  12. aljun says:

    pls…give me shiny 1,000

  13. Rays says:

    pls..give me to 1,000 shiny

  14. Clone Wars: What Copycats Really Do To The Social Games Industry says:

    [...] These monsters can be sent out to attack other players’ bases, thereby netting more resources. When the game launched, it had a gender neutral art style with arguably “cute” monsters. Since that time, Kixeye has [...]

  15. Kixeye Raises $18M in Series C Funding, Hires Zynga Co-Founder Trader says:

    [...] Backyard Monsters developer Kixeye announced a Series C round of funding today totally $18 million from Jafco Ventures, Trinity Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partner. Additionally, Zynga co-founder Andrew Trader will join the developer’s board. [...]

  16. Inside Social Games · Hidden Chronicles, Words With Friends top this week’s list of fastest-growing Facebook games by MAU says:

    [...] Backyard Monsters [...]

  17. Inside Social Games · Digital Chocolate’s newest strategy title Galaxy Life sees steady growth since November launch says:

    [...] style of play is somewhat similar to Kixeye’s popular Backyard Monsters title. Players can upgrade buildings on their base, which in turn allows them to store more [...]

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